The Game Plan: Getting Started

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Your game design can run fairly smoothly or it can be a continuous cesspool of hardships and setbacks and pain points. In the next few series of posts I’m going to try and help walk you through the process of getting your game up and off the ground, from what you’re envisioning in your head to an actual working version. So, let’s get started.

1. Get It Out Of Your Head

It’s time you pull out a pencil, pen, or open your laptop to a writing program. First thing’s first, you have to get your game out of your head. Write it down and put it somewhere you can reference it later.

2. Writer’s Block

So if you’ve opened a text editor or you have a pen in your hand you’ve successfully completed step one. Now, what do you write? I like to start with the five W’s:

Whom?

  • Does your game appeal to a specific age range or interest group or gender or even ethnic background?
  • Will you have a large audience your game will appeal to or a small audience?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of the audience you’ve identified?

What?

  • What kind of game are you trying to make?
  • What programming language best suits this kind of game?
  • Does it fit into a specific genre of game or does it span multiple genres?
  • Does it embody a completely new genre?
  • Can you find other games that are similar to the game you are trying to make? If so, what do these games do well and where do fall short?
  • Are there lots of other games on the market similar to the type of game you’re trying to make?
  • What will your charge for your game?
  • What do other, similar games of this type charge?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of the type of game you’re trying to make?

Where?

  • Where does your game take place?
  • What kind of maps or features or environment are unique to your game?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of where your game takes place?

When?

  • When will you have time to work on this game?
  • When can you start this game?
  • When can you fund the development of this game?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of developing this game?

Why?

  • Why are you making this game?
  • Why is your game unique?
  • Why will your game stand out from the crowd?
  • Why will people choose to play your game over other similar games?
  • Why will people pay for your game?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of making this game?

3. Make A Design Document

Your design document is a refined version of everything you’ve written down in step 2. Go back and really analyze what your goals for the game are and if what you’ve written down makes sense in the larger picture. Sometimes a good idea you have for one area of the game will conflict or make another part of the game tedious, uninspired or downright frustrating. For a game design document I like to use the following format:

  1. Intro
    • What is the vision for your game and a short description of how the game is played
  2. Audience, Platform & Marketing Strategies
    • Who the game is for, what platforms you’re making it for and what sets your game apart that will make it marketable and different from others
  3. Core Gameplay & Mechanics
    • How the game is played including physics, rules and limitations
  4. Characters
    • What characters are in your game including what they look like, their names and backgrounds and personalities
  5. Story, Themes & Twists
    • If your game has an overarching story then you’ll outline your plot and how the game progresses with the story line
  6. World
    • Describe the world your game is set in, including maps and locations and their purpose or importance
  7. Assets
    • All the different images, music, animations, etc that you will need to have a fully functional game
  8. Technical Specs
    • What language you’re using, how games are loaded/saved, where games are stored, the number of servers you’ll need and anything else relating to the technical setup of your game
  9. Interface
    • What the game interface looks like and how the player will interact with it
  10. Outside References
    • Articles, links, design inspriations, or anything else that you’re using as a reference for the game you’re making
  11. Appendix
    • Code style guidelines, dictionary of terms, and anything else that is important for understanding your design document that may not necessarily relate to your game directly

Once you’ve fully fleshed out your game design by going into depth about the features, physics, economy, weapons, characters and how the game works it’s time to break it down. Start by creating lots of of small, easy tasks you can accomplish in order to see your core game mechanics to completion enough that you could play a simple version of your game without any extra bells and whistles. Set yourself up to do as little as you have to but as much as you need to in order to get a really simplified, yet completed, version of your game.

PLEX Character Puzzles

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Total Time – 2 hours. I would have spent more time working on my code but it seems that my laptop has died and I have to go get it fixed. Joy…

For each of the characters the puzzles will be different. However, you can see the initial starting position of each character in the game by looking at the game map above. When a new game is started the selected character will start at that position. They can interact with the other characters as NPC characters if they go to their location on the map. Each character has an ultimate goal they are working towards (a way to win the game) but they will have to complete smaller puzzles in order to finish their ultimate goal. I’m going to focus on Alex as the first set of puzzles and maps I complete before I move on to the next character.

Alex – He starts off in the builders guild part of the map. His ultimate goal is to figure out where the supplies went that were supposed to be delivered so he could build a house.

Builders Guild – on this section of the map Alex can buy some hard to find blocks from his parents store. Otherwise there is no actual puzzle for him to complete here. Once he returns to this part of the map and has figured out where all his supplies went the game is over.

Ash Canyon – Here Alex will have to move a few blocks out of his way before he can continue on to Fuzzyland. The blocks will have a certain pattern to them so they have to be arranged in a particular way before he can get through. A rock will block the broken bridge that leads to Merryfield so he can only continue on through Fuzzyland.

Fuzzyland – Here Alex meets Bella. She’s the daughter of the best item maker in Plex. She tells him that she can give him some bombs if he’ll help her get X amount of gems so she can run way from home. When he brings her that amount of gems then he’ll be able to buy bombs from the store. He won’t have enough gems to give her what she wants so he’ll have to continue on to Haymarket.

Haymarket – In haymarket Alex has a bunch of choices on where he’d like to go after he unscrambles the broken road so he can pass. Here he’ll find a few gems if he completes the road and he’ll see a key that’s surrounded by boulders and trees (that he can’t reach at this point).

Stone Castle – here he can help complete a tower on a section of the castle to receive a shovel courtesy of the king if he does. Now he can buy shovels from the store which will help him dig up blocks as his journey continues.

Waterville – Alex can go here from haymarket. He’ll come to a shore with a ton of water blocks between his way and the path to landslide. Here he’ll need a ramp to make his way across the water. Once he gets across Tanya will warn him of the boulders and rocks in landslide and tells him about how the water level is dropping and how worried she is about it. Tells him about the rumor that landslide is a goldmine if you start digging and moving things around.

Mercy Valley – Alex can go here from haymarket. If gives Kitty a shovel (because they’re out of shovels here) then she’ll give him a ramp. She tells him that they’ve been really short of shovels in the valley lately and she’s not sure why. If Alex can fix the slope on one side of the valley then he can pass across to boulder canyon but Kitty warns that there’s a monster through the pass and he probably shouldn’t go through until he knows how to defeat it.

Landslide – this part of the map is packed with blocks. In order for Alex to get through he’ll have dig his way through blocks, and then move a path out of the way. For every block he digs up he’ll be rewarded with gems. (he should have enough after this to bring gems back to Bella.

Wishingwell Falls – in this part of the map Alex meets Raven, the princess of Plex. Raven is off on a big adventure but she won’t let Alex pass through into boulder canyon until she can bring him a key she needs to open a treasure chest (the key is in haymarket). Once Alex brings her the key back she’ll tell him how to beat the monster in boulder canyon.

Boulder Canyon – Alex defeats the monster. He can’t face the monster until he’s helped Raven.

Merryfield – The last stop before Alex can finish the game. He finds Lisa whose missing her sheep. She says knows whats happened to his supplies but in return for telling him he has to rebuild the bridge between Merryfield and Ash canyon. Once Alex does that Lisa gives him all his supplies saying that the people who were going to deliver it got attacked by the monster and then were too scared to continue on their journey to his place. She gives him a ton of blocks and Alex can return home.

Builder Guild – once he’s back in the builders guild Alex can use the blocks he received to build a house. Once his house is complete the game is over and the person playing Plex can try playing the game as one of the other 5 characters where the storyline and puzzles will be different.